Being a dentist who owns their own practice is really two jobs in one. First, you are a dental care provider. After all, you went into dentistry to be a dentist. But you are also an entrepreneur. When you start or buy a dental practice, you have taken on all of the financial risk of that business just as any small business owner does. You want it to be the best it can be—to take care of your patients, your staff, your family, and yourself. In a large part, your practice is your legacy. This means that in addition to providing the highest quality dental care to your patients, you also want to put that same level of quality into the business side of your practice.
So, while you went into dentistry to practice dentistry, as long as you are running your own practice, you cannot ignore the competing responsibilities to properly manage the business of your practice. When we say “competing,” we don’t mean there has to be a compromise in the quality of care your provide. Rather, we mean that the business responsibilities will compete for your time, a finite resource. This month, here at DDSmatch Southwest, we are running two articles focusing on good and bad business practices: some simple “do’s and don’ts” to help you manage your practice. These basic principles can help you grow your business and sustain a level of success that will pay off in both the short and long term.
This article will focus on a few “don’ts” for promoting and growing your business. If you’ve not run a business before, you’ve probably already realized is a bit more complicated that it looks. Here are a few things to avoid going forward that will make it easier to get your practice to operate at the level you hope to reach.
Don’t Rely on Traditional Marketing, the Marketplace has Changed
When you are starting or buying a dental practice, you can look at what the practice has done in the past—or what other local practices are doing—to market themselves. Are they hyping specials? Discounts? Are they lowering prices or advertising what insurances they accept? If so, they are engaging in traditional dental practice marketing.
That may have worked well in the 20th Century, but not today. Dental patients have more choices than ever, and more access to information. Although they aren’t experts, consumers in general are better informed than previous generations. When someone wants a dentist, they start online, most likely with reviews. Look at those reviews, and you will see what patients care about most. Sure, cost is a factor. But customer service, the attentiveness of the staff and care provider, and the quality of care are all a priority. The fact is, consumers are looking for the nexus of value and quality overall, and most are willing to pay a little more for a better experience and quality of care.
Chasing the low-price consumer is a losing game. You’re competing against cut-rate providers for customers who will not stay loyal to your practice if they think they can get a better price. Also, you’ll be forced to cut your margins so tight that you may end up reducing your cash flow to a point that could be detrimental to your business.
What you want for your practice is not an ever-shifting patient base with no loyalty. What you want are the smart consumers who understand the quality that you offer and are willing to pay a fair price. Those are the patients that will keep coming back. That stable patient base is essential for a healthy dental practice (and will be a big asset when you want to sell your dental practice).
Don’t Overlook What Your Patients Care About
Another common mistake is thinking that your patients will think about dentistry the way you do. You are an expert with training and experience. Your patients just want their teeth to look and feel good. Exactly how that happens is what they are paying you for.
The more technical something sounds, the less potential patients will care. Do you have techniques or technology that will enable them to smile again? To be free from pain and discomfort? That they care about. A lot. However, they will care about it at about that level of detail. If you’re buying a dental practice and updating to the equipment with the most advanced technology, go ahead and advertise that. But don’t explain what the technology is. Explain what it does to better patients’ lives in terms they can understand (a good rule of thumb is to keep everything at about a 6th Grade reading level).
Remember, it’s not about compromising the quality of care, it’s about making it accessible.
Don’t Neglect Social Media
Social media performs two important functions in marketing, and any dentist who neglects their online presence will lose patients to one who doesn’t. First, on a human level, it allows you to engage with your patients and potential patient base. It gives them a feel for who you are, what your practice philosophy is, whether you are someone they want to take a risk on with their money and their mouths. With less people watching broadcast television, listening to terrestrial radio, reading print publications, or paying attention to traditional advertising, your social media presence is one of the best, most direct ways of engaging with your market.
Second, an up-to-date, well-optimized website, linked to social media and YouTube channels, with a steady stream of backlinked content, signals to the online search algorithms that you are an active, healthy, legitimate business that will appeal to consumers doing searches in your area. Active engagement and promoting quality website content across social media channels is an essential piece in keeping your website at the top of local search rankings. And whether you like social media or not, it’s key to modern marketing.
Don’t DIY Your Marketing
If the last few paragraphs aren’t sitting well with you, that’s fine. You don’t actually have to do this yourself. In fact, it’s probably better if you don’t. Online marketing is an ever-shifting shell-game. Once people learn how to work the search algorithms, the algorithms change, often on weekly basis. Online marketing requires the expertise of people who are staying on top of these changes, which is, in itself, a full-time job.
Hire an online marketing company to build your site and work with them to produce quality content. Maybe you have a young, savvy receptionist or hygienist who, for a little extra in their paycheck, will engage with patients on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Trying to do it yourself will cost you time you don’t have, and will not be as effective. Plus, the experts help track where new patients are coming from and can continually optimize to ensure your marketing efforts are paying off and where you need to adjust.
When Buying a Dental Practice, Use a Dental Broker
Just as you are not an expert in marketing, you also probably aren’t an expert in selling or buying dental practices. But here at DDSmatch Southwest, we are. We take the combined experience of hundreds of dental practice transitions from all across the country and put that to work to match the right buyer with the right seller. Give us a call today and find out how we can help you get the right practice.